Contentious trusts and probate in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern represents a broad array of beneficiaries, executors and trustees in cases at the Court of Session and in Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland. The team is led by Katrina Lumsdaine, who shines in proving the tenor of wills and challenges to wills. Catriona Watt, meanwhile, mainly specialises in incapacity-related matters, including complex cases involving the use and misuse of powers of attorney and the depletion of estates by attorneys. Other areas of strength include reductions of confirmation, the removal of executors and trustees, and challenges to trust variations - the lattermost area being a strong suit of associate Liam Smith’s personal practice.

Practice head(s):

Katrina Lumsdaine

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Liam Smith; Gary Burton


‘Anderson Stathern are easy to deal with and have an impressive range of technical knowledge. The firm benefits from its client base, which ensures that it is at the sharp end of practice.’

‘The people I deal with have all the attributes that a private client wants – hard-working, knowledgeable, committed to clients’ interests, approachable, sympathetic but firm when they need to be, seeing the big picture but never ignoring inconvenient details when they matter.’

Key clients

Office of the Public Guardian

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Work highlights

  • Advising various sets of trustees and trust variations in terms of s1(1) of the Trusts (Scotland) Act 1961, including matters which require a petition to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
  • Acted in an action seeking to rectify a will in terms of s3 of the Succession (Scotland) Act.
  • Acted for an executor in a Court of Session action to reduce a Certificate of Confirmation and to prove the tenor of a lost Will.

Brodies LLP

Leveraging expertise from the firm’s highly respected commercial litigation department and its and wider private client teams, the contentious trust offering at Brodies LLP encompasses a diverse range of disputes. It flourishes in disputes emanating from the validity of wills, executry disputes concerning business assets and disputes relating to the winding up of estates. The department is led by Mark Stewart and Christine O’Neill, the latter of whom has particular expertise in actions to remove trustees, claims of breach of trust, and actions to strike down contested wills. The ‘intelligent and commercialAngela McCulloch, tax disputes specialist Alan Barr, cross-border trusts expert Susanne Batchelor and Norman Kennedy are other key names to note.

Practice head(s):

Mark Stewart; Christine O’Neill QC

Other key lawyers:

Alan Barr; Norman Kennedy; Angela McCulloch; Susanne Batchelor


‘Mark Stewart is technically excellent and always makes time to be available.’

‘I have collaborated with Brodies on some complicated personal tax issues. The various members of their teams have each brought a level of expertise that has been invaluable to me, but more importantly providing highly skilled advice and solutions to my clients.’

‘The Brodies team are highly knowledgeable and always willing and available to share that knowledge. Nothing is too much trouble for them.’

‘Brodies has such a strong team in the Private Client and trusts arena. They are well-represented geographically throughout Scotland’

‘Norman Kennedy is an exceptional lawyer, and has an excellent grasp of the financial aspects/consequences of the advice he gives clients and professional connections alike.’

‘A friendly and approachable team with a high level of technical expertise. ’

‘Angela McCulloch is an intelligent lawyer with a commercial approach. Alan Barr is very academic, and pleasant to deal with.’

‘The team is considered to be deep in both numbers and expertise, and is the “go-to” private client team in Aberdeen. ’

‘Brodies demonstrated and evidenced a unique proposition for the legal services we needed in Scotland. From our initial meetings, it was clear that they had the knowledge, expertise, systems and ‘real world’ experience to provide us with the services we needed and to the service and performance levels we were looking for. ’

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

Noted for its cross-department capabilities, Gillespie Macandrew LLP is instructed in the full range of contentious rural estates, family trust variations and contentious tax issues. The department is led by Agnes Mallon, who often advises on contentious issues arising from multi-jurisdictional estates, as well as claims relating to executry administration. Elsewhere, John McArthur routinely negotiates settlements with HMRC on agricultural and business property relief cases and the worldwide disclosure facility, while solicitor advocate John B Stirling places an emphasis on legacies and multiple poindings. Also adept in this space is Eilidh Adams, who excels in contentious issues of domicile and the effect of marriage and divorce on the revocation of foreign wills.

Practice head(s):

Agnes Mallon

Other key lawyers:

John McArthur; Eilidh Adams; John B Stirling; Sarah-Jane Macdonald


‘First-class client service with advice focused on achieving the best outcome for the client. Another strength is the working relationship across the departments within the firm.’

‘Eilidh Adams offers excellent, well-considered advice and has an impressive knowledge of private client law.’

‘From start to finish, Agnes Mallon was such pleasant support throughout what was such a difficult time with my father’s will.’ 

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser primarily acts for high-net-worth individuals and families based in the Central Belt region, handling complex executry and probate disputes. The group receives instructions from a range of executors, trustees and estate beneficiaries related to succession planning, tax planning and the administration of trusts and estates. Performing regularly in both the Court of Session and Sheriff Courts, Richard McMeeken shares the department lead with private client group lead Sue Hunter. Steadily more involved in this area is senior solicitor Ailie Crawford, who carries out advocacy concerning accounting, proving the tenor of wills, and reduction.

Practice head(s):

Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Other key lawyers:

Donna Brennan; Ailie Crawford

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn has a focus on high-value and complex trust and executry disputes, which it handles for a variety of private individuals and trustees, including rural sector clients and financial institutions. Made possible by the presence of a number of dual-qualified solicitors, the group distinguishes itself through its cross-border work, drawing on the resources of its London hub. The team is jointly led by Christopher McGill and Elaine Brailsford; the latter has a proven track record in trust variation petitions and long-running judicial factor cases. Contentious trusts and executries are also strong suits of the practices of private client group head Malcolm Rust and consultant Greig Honeyman. Also adept in this area are Gillian Campbell and Stephanie Hepburn, who has particular expertise in disputes relating to the validity of wills.

Practice head(s):

Christopher McGill; Elaine Brailsford

Other key lawyers:

Malcolm Rust; Greig Honeyman; Stephanie Hepburn; Douglas Sinclair


‘We have been very impressed with the team’s skills and ability to get to grips with our position, challenges and put together a strategy to resolve our position. ’

‘Chris McGill has not only been responsive and highly knowledgeable, but furthermore, he has brought on local jurisdictional experts that have slotted in seamlessly. We have every confidence in his abilities and are delighted to have been introduced to him.’

‘The practice has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area of contentious trusts and probate. They also have the ability to bring in experts to advise on other legal matters providing comprehensive advice.’

‘The individuals are very responsive to enquiries and ensure that they cover all aspects of advice providing a comprehensive service.’

Murray Beith Murray

Murray Beith Murray has a track record in sophisticated, high-value trust disputes, particularly family trusts and probate-related matters. Andrew Paterson, who heads up the group, frequently assists high-net-worth families with the legal issues arising following the death of a relative, in addition to mandates concerning proving the tenor of disputed wills. Hugh Younger, a specialist in rural property and asset protection, is another key member of practice, which also includes tax expert Peter Shand.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:

Hugh Younger; Peter Shand

Work highlights

  • Acting in the administration of one of the largest ever estates of a deceased individual in Scotland, involving a number of contentious aspects.
  • Advising a Trustee on an internal dispute between family members who are beneficiaries of a number of family Trusts.
  • Advised a client on various legal rights claims against certain estates.